Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, Warner Springs to Whitewater, Days 1-2: It never rains in Southern California

Triscuit and I awoke to the insistent patter of rain on the teepee where we were staying near Ranchita. "Maybe we should take a zero day," I said, only partly joking. The forecast looked grim, El Nino visiting Southern California at last. But section hikers don't have time to sit out the rain. Instead, we suited up in rain gear and headed out on the PCT. It felt good to be back.



The rain added magic to the open landscape, clouds hanging low as we hiked through fields and gradually ascended into the mountains. The plants were drinking in the rain. Around mid-day we came upon our first thru-hiker, Slingblade from Arkansas. Only a few hikers were brave enough to be out. Most were huddled up inside.
Slingblade!

But not us. We walked through a brushy, rocky landscape, stopping just shy of a famed place called Mike's. Neither of us really wanted to go there; it was rumored to be a party place, and that wasn't what we were out here to do. Instead, we stopped early near some boulders after 15.5 miles of hiking, not a bad total for starting later in the day. As we set up camp, Slingblade and a trio of hikers trudged by, bound for Mike's. We never saw them again, as they were probably pulled into the vortex.

First night's camp. The NEMO tent did great in the rain.
The next morning we awoke with dripping tents to begin the routine that would be ours for the next four days: pack up wet stuff, hike until a brief sunburst, and spread everything out for a "yard sale." Rain always adds an extra intensity to backpacking. Most of your energy is focused on staying dry. I lined my backpack with a trash compactor bag and had my sleeping bag in a dry sack. At the last minute I threw my pack cover in. Mostly these are semi-worthless, but in a downpour they keep part of your pack dry, so I was glad I had it.
Happy flowers!

 We descended to a dirt road and festooned our gear on handy chaparral until it was passably dry. Gathering "cow water" from a tiny trickle, we saw more thru-hikers: Man in Black and a younger guy who claimed he was just "winging it" on the trail, thus our trail name for him, Wing It. We also came upon a man slumped on a rock, who insisted he was okay even though he looked far from it.


In the distance we could see the town of Anza and hear dogs barking from remote compounds. Who were these people, and what did they do all day? Perhaps it was better not to know. After hiking a little over 19 miles, we pulled in to a set of large boulders for the night, soon joined by Wing It, who revealed he had been in Iraq and Afghanistan and was trying to figure out what he wanted to do next, and another man we had secretly dubbed "Flying Nun" for the way his hat flapped in the breeze. Although, I mused, as we climbed out of Nance Canyon there had clearly been someone else hiking with Flying Nun. What had happened to her? Did he push her off a cliff? Did they get a trail divorce? So many mysteries on this trail.

House in the middle of nowhere, after the climb out of Nance Canyon.

Second night's camp

In the distance the coyotes howled. We knew the next day would be a test of our experience and our patience: 100% of rain and an untested alternate route due to a fire closure. Since most "thru" hikers are skipping the alternate (yet still calling themselves thru-hikers), there was not much information on this. We could only hope for the best. In retrospect, it was better that we didn't know what lay ahead.

To be continued...

11 comments:

  1. I actually like hiking in the rain. But backpacking in it for several days I can see could be a drag. Glad to read about your latest PCT thru hike!

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    1. Actually after the last day of blazing sun, we decided the rain wasn't all bad.

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  2. Love your second night camp spot and the tent!
    Can't wait till the next adventure....

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    2. That was such a great site! I'm a picky site camper.

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  3. A shame about having to dry everything out but the views and plantlife are a wonderful reward. Looking forward to part 2.

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    1. Drying out wasn't as terrible as it could have been. I've hiked for days on end without a sunny break.

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  4. Hiking in the rain and getting really wet is rough. But then drying out in the sun feels amazing!

    Which Nemo do you have?

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    1. Hornet 1p. So far so good. It's not spacious but folds up super small and is very lightweight.

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  5. On the edge of my seat for more trail updates from you!

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    1. Ha! One coming soon. It was sure an unusual year on the PCT in CA.

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